It’s Almost Hilarious How Bad The Mariners Are At Adding To The Big League Club

Earlier in the week, I wrote about a bunch of former Mariners and talked about how they’re doing on their new teams. Some are doing great, some are having terrible seasons, and a lot of them are in the squishy middle.

I’ve also spent all season writing about how bad most of the new Mariners are, as well as how bad a bunch of longtime Mariners have been. It’s truly mindblowing how God awful this offense is. And yet, here we are, in first place in the division – thanks to an elite pitching staff – and we’re talking about this team making deadline deals in hopes to bolster our playoff chances.

But, are we sure we want THIS group of front office people making those decisions?

Who are the biggest offseason players we brought in to try to turn things around after a disappointing 2023? Mitch Haniger, Jorge Polanco, Mitch Garver, Luis Urias, and Luke Raley. They’ve all been terrible except for Raley, who has been good. Not great, not a difference-maker. Just, not the fucking worst like those other four guys.

So, let’s go back to the trade deadline last year; who did we bring in? Dominic Canzone and Josh Rojas. Canzone has flashed competence, but has mostly been wretched. Rojas has been good. Not great, not a difference-maker. Just, not the fucking worst.

You can come back and tell me that you need good players like Raley and Rojas, and I won’t argue with you. But, every hitter on the Mariners who isn’t the fucking worst is good. Just okay. Julio has been good. Cal has been good. Ty and J.P. have had their moments. Dylan Moore has been fine. Right now, I would lump all of those players together; they’re all the same. They’re all just kinda meh.

We can keep going backwards. Who did we bring in ahead of 2023? Kolten Wong, A.J. Pollock, Tommy La Stella, and Teoscar Hernandez. Three pieces of shit and one good player.

In 2022 – when we finally broke the curse and made it back to the playoffs – we brought in Jesse Winker, Adam Frazier, Carlos Santana, and Eugenio Suarez. Winker was a colossal bust, Frazier was a dud, Santana was mostly bad (with a precious few bright spots), and Suarez was good (until 2023, when he was bad again).

In 2021, we brought in Abraham Toro at the deadline; a total and complete nothing. We also traded for Jake Bauers, who was even less than nothing. That wasn’t much of a year for trades or free agents, because we were still in rebuild mode.

But, just look at that track record! Who are the veteran players we acquired who were worth a damn?!

There’s an argument to be made that – when it’s all said and done – Josh Rojas will have been the best of the bunch, if he isn’t already. A journeyman, soon-to-be 30 year old infielder; THAT is the best veteran acquisition we’ve made on the hitting side of things in the Jerry Dipoto Era.

And this is the leadership group we want to entrust with our ballclub next month at the trade deadline.

You wonder why I’m so nervous about what’s going to happen?

Don’t get me wrong, this team has nailed pitchers. Luis Castillo, A+. Robbie Ray, B-. Damn near everyone in the bullpen? Gold stars all around! And, I would give them kudos for the players they’ve drafted, or otherwise fostered from very young prospect status. Julio, Cal, J.P., the rest of our starting pitchers, Munoz, Brash … that’s a core you can write home about.

Which brings me around to my ultimate point: maybe this organization should do what it does best. Maybe they should stick with their own prospects that they’ve developed and nurtured over the years. Maybe it’s smarter to be more patient and wait for them to be ready for the Majors.

Because whenever we try to go out and get some veteran help to have a positive immediate impact? It seems to end in total and complete failure. No one ever plays up to the backs of their baseball cards. No one is a sure thing, unless that “sure thing” is to come to Seattle and suck ass. Doesn’t matter if you’re young, old, on the cusp of the Major Leagues, or smack dab in the middle of your prime; odds are, if you come here, you’re going to turn into a turd.

So, maybe skip that step. Because it’s not going to work out anyway, and it’ll come with the added detriment of also giving away potentially-useful players to other teams. Fuck it, the Mariners are mediocre. But, making a bunch of trades to blow up your farm system is a surefire way to ensure we’re not only bad now, but for years to come.

Stick to your guns! I’m starting to get used to the 54%. It’s all we deserve.

The Mariners Have Managed To Hold Onto First Place In Spite Of Their Offensive Incompetence

Is the incompetence offensive? Or is the offense incompetent? Why not both?!

The 10-day/10-game road trip that just concluded wasn’t as mortifying as it could’ve been. There was a nice late-game scramble in Baltimore to take one of those three games; we managed to score 4 runs off the hottest closer in the game to help us split the 4-game series against the Yankees; and, while winning 1 of 3 against the Nationals isn’t ideal, it limited the damage to only a 4-6 road trip, when it very easily could’ve been 2-8 or worse.

Knowing how close it had been atop the A.L. West for most of this season, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Mariners somehow comfortably ahead of the rest. I was even more shocked to see that the Mariners are the only team in the division with a winning record as of this writing. We are 3 games over .500, and 3.5 games ahead of second place Texas (who are 4 games under .500). The Astros (who we’re playing now, back in Seattle) are 6 games under, the A’s are 11 games under, and the Angels are a whopping 13 games under .500.

It’s always something with the Mariners. It seems like every single year, we can say, “If only X, Y, and Z were to happen, this team would contend for a World Series.” A buddy of mine and I were talking about this very subject yesterday. If the Mariners ever figure out how to score more runs, they’re going all the way! He had mentioned previously that the 2018 Mariners – the last decent group, with Cruz, Seager, Cano, etc. – if they had only had more pitching, would’ve been serious contenders.

This MIGHT end up being the most extreme case we’ve ever seen, though. The starting pitching is SO good, and the bullpen has been its usual brand of effective (and occasionally excellent), that it feels like if the Mariners ever score 5 runs, they should be undefeated. That if we can average an extra half-run per game the rest of the year, we WILL go all the way.

Through 55 games, the Mariners are averaging 3.73 runs per game. If you were to bump that up to just 4 and a quarter, that’s an extra 28-29 runs. Are you telling me – with an extra 28-29 runs – we wouldn’t have an extra 6-7 wins? Come on. We’d be one of the best teams in baseball! If you bump us up to 234 runs (as opposed to our actual 205 runs), there would still be 15 teams ahead of us in the MLB. 234 is EXTREMELY middle-of-the-road. 205 is 4th-worst. So, it’s not like I’m asking a lot. I’m not asking for the moon and the stars here. I’m asking for an extra half-run per game, to turn us into one of the best teams in the game.

Now, the question, obviously, is: how do we get there?

It’s a valiant effort by this team to hang around .500 and luck into the division lead as we head into June, but a lot of that has been predicated on the Astros and Rangers either dealing with an inordinate amount of injuries or just playing well below their means. You can argue the Mariners have also had injuries (Brash, Santos, Woo, Crawford, Canzone, now Polanco), and have also played below their means (Julio, Polanco, Garver, Haniger). But, I would argue our ceiling isn’t nearly as high as the two Texas teams, and they’re coming. They’re GOING to get hot and start making a charge; it’s only a matter of when, not if.

So, how do we fend them off? Or, at the very least, put ourselves in a position to steal this division when it’s all said and done?

How do we get to that extra half-run per game?

I really want to say there’s enough on this roster as it’s currently constructed. I want to believe that Julio has started to turn things around as soon as I badmouthed him on the blog (as was my intent, naturally). I want J.P. to rebound, I want Garver to start mashing, I want Ty France to salvage his career, I want Haniger to look a little more like he did 6 years ago, and a lot less like he’s looked the last two seasons. I want the Polanco that was advertised to us when we traded for him, and I want our pleasant surprises (Raley, Moore, Rojas) to continue being productive Major Leaguers.

But, that might be asking too much. Haniger is probably toast. Polanco and Garver clearly haven’t adjusted to life in Seattle. Rojas has already started to come down to Earth after that supernova start to the season, and I don’t think Raley or Moore are far behind. Those guys are fine, but expecting more from them than what they are is a bridge too far. I do see better days for J.P. And, obviously, Julio will have his good times. But, it sure feels like Ty is on borrowed time, and is probably one extended slump away from getting the boot (or, at least, getting benched in favor of Tyler Locklear, who was recently promoted to AAA Tacoma).

That leads me to believe there’s an outside move or two coming. But, will that be enough?

I was going to do a post about how I don’t want the Mariners to go after seasoned veterans anymore. Too many of them get here, get it into their heads that they can’t hit here (if they didn’t already arrive with those preconceived notions), and it becomes one long self-fulfilling prophecy until they get shit-canned or sold for scrap parts. The problem with that concept for a blog post is, there are too many players I’d have to exclude. I mean, obviously, you have to take out Nelson Cruz: Greatest Mariners Free Agent Of All Time. You have to forget about the first Eugenio Suarez season. You at least have to ignore the occasional clutch success of Carlos Santana in big moments, and the semi-competence of Teoscar Hernandez (particularly when he was super hot last August, only to be overshadowed by Julio, who was a man possessed).

But, I would write that post because of guys like Garver and Polanco and Jesse Winker and Kolton Wong and A.J. Pollock and Adam Frazier. What do they have in common? They’re all established, veteran Major Leaguers. They were all very productive immediately before arriving in Seattle. And, they all sucked. They probably shouldn’t have. If they had signed with another team, maybe one that didn’t have as much pressure to win (and win close), or maybe with a team that had a friendlier hitting environment, maybe they would’ve been success stories with those respective teams. Guys like Frazier and Winker HAVE, in fact, gone on to other teams, with moderate success. One would suspect that Garver and/or Polanco – when they move on next year – will have a much easier time turning their fortunes around.

On the flipside, maybe the Mariners are smarter to buy low on younger, hungrier Quad-A type players, like Canzone and Raley and Rojas. Maybe it’s better to continue bringing up guys from within, like Clase and Bliss. Oh sure, a lot of them will fail and move on. But, if you can get one or two to hit, that’s invaluable! Because they’re cheap, and they will have done it here. They won’t be coming from some other organization and have to try to adapt.

Or, we can just admit that every team has moves that flop, involving both young guys and veterans alike, and it’s all one big, shitty crapshoot. That’s kind of where I’m at with all of this, and why I didn’t bother writing that post (you didn’t see nothin’ here; these aren’t the droids you’re looking for).

Some interesting numbers to look at: we’re 10-4 in one-run games, which I heard is best in baseball. That’s going to HAVE to happen if this thing is going to continue. We finished April 15-11 (we were 2-2 in March), which I don’t think anyone saw coming after the way we started. And we’re actually a game under .500 in May (it certainly felt like we were doing better than that, but again, that last road trip was certainly a killer). We’re 7-7 in blowouts, we’re 6 games over .500 at home, and 3 games under .500 on the road. Most importantly, we have a winning record in our division (7-3 against Houston, Texas, and Oakland; we’ve yet to play the Angels).

Keep it up! We eked one out against the Astros last night, gotta find a way to win at least one of the next two.

Do The Mariners Have What It Takes To Get To 90 Wins?

And, more importantly, is 90 wins enough to get the Mariners in the playoffs?

As we sit here, the Mariners have played 89 games out of a 162-game season. Doing my very best mathematics, I believe that means there are 73 games left to go. In those first 89 games, the Mariners have gotten to 45 wins. I know we talk about pre- and post-All Star Break as the first and second “halves”, but as you can clearly see from my math above, we don’t actually have half of our games remaining. We have considerably less than half. And yet, somehow, we have to find a way to double our win total just to get to 90 wins, in 16 fewer games. Which, as I noted above, might not even be enough to get us in the playoffs.

The Mariners have dug themselves an annoying little hole here. Let’s take a look at the damage before we assess the likelihood of pulling out of this nosedive.

The Mariners are 45-44, in third place in the A.L. West. We had been in fourth place for most of the season, until this 7-2 stretch to close out the first half led to us taking a game lead over the Angels. But, we’re 4 games behind Houston and 6 games behind Texas. That’s not completely insurmountable, but obviously a tall order.

As for the wild card spots, we’re squarely in the thick of it. There are 8 teams (not counting the current division leaders) in the running for 3 spots. Currently, those spots are held by the Orioles, Blue Jays, and Astros. Since we know the Mariners are 4 games behind the Astros, that means we also know the Mariners are 4 games out of the final wild card spot. There are two other teams ahead of us as well: the Yankees are 3 games better, and have a tiebreaker over us thanks to winning 4 of 6 in our season series; the Red Sox are 2 games better, and are currently leading the tiebreaker advantage by having beaten us 2 of 3 times so far.

I should also point out, for tiebreaker purposes, that both the Blue Jays and Orioles have a 2 of 3 advantage so far. The Angels lead our season series 4-2, the Guardians have already won a tiebreaker advantage over us 4-3, and Texas has a 5-1 advantage. Currently, we have an edge over the Rays 2-1 (probably meaningless, since they figure to have a far-and-away better record than us by season’s end, and will likely win their division), the Astros (a significant 5-2 lead, with 6 games to go), and we’ve yet to play the Twins, which feels important if – indeed – the Mariners have decided to start playing more competent baseball.

So, there’s kind of a lot to overcome. It’s never easy, is it?

To get to 90 wins, the Mariners will have to go 45-28, or win at a .616 clip the rest of the way. That’s very nearly winning 2 of 3.

I mean, it’s not impossible, but it also leaves us with a razor thin margin for error. Is this team capable of going 45-28? Sure. If the pitching holds up (meaning: both it performs well, and doesn’t suffer any more catastrophic injuries). If the hitting turns itself around. It’s not like we’ve gotta turn into a completely new team; we just need to do a little bit better than we’ve been doing all year. Maybe a new bat helps. Or maybe we’re not able to find that difference-maker, but a guy or two already on the roster starts playing to his expected abilities.

There are some built-in challenges we have to overcome as well. Bryan Woo almost certainly won’t make it to the end of the season. He has a hard innings limit, and I don’t think there’s a way for us to manipulate that without risking his arm long term. My hope here is that he’s able to bridge the gap between Marco Gonzales’ IL stint. But, I haven’t heard any news about Marco in quite some time.

There’s also the Bryce Miller factor. This IL stint for a blister issue might be the best thing for him and us. I believe we have a little more leeway with Miller as far as an innings limit is concerned, but at some point his season is likely to end before we get to the playoffs, even if it is in September. There doesn’t appear to be any guarantee that Marco comes back, but even if he does, there’s a strong likelihood we may need another starter at some point. That means any number of Quad-A guys in Tacoma (like Tommy Milone, for instance, or Darren McCaughan), or maybe we give Emerson Hancock the ball (who surely has innings issues of his own, not to mention a shaky start to his AA season).

Does all this mean the Mariners might need to bring in another starter? I doubt we’ll do that – unless someone gets hurt in the next three weeks – but you never know.

Gun to my head: what do I predict?

I think the smart money is on the Mariners NOT making the playoffs. What needs to happen for this to come to fruition is simple: the Mariners need to continue playing the way they’ve played all year. We will, at some point, make a trade, but I can’t imagine it will be for any sort of high-impact bat. I think it’ll be one of those hedge moves. Maybe it’s a guy with club control – where we can shed Wong and/or Pollock – of the Abraham Toro variety. Maybe there’s an aging Carlos Santana type to be had for cheap. But, what’s working against us is the simple fact that there are so many good teams looking for improvements (11 out of 15 teams in playoff contention the American League alone, with another 8 out of 15 in the N.L. all within just a half-game of the post-season, not counting the Padres and Cubs, who have losing records but positive run differentials). So, either the Mariners have to over-spend in trade to get someone who might not even be enough to get us to the playoffs anyway, or we settle for someone on the fringes and hope for the best.

Conversely, what needs to happen for the Mariners to right the ship?

We need Julio, Eugenio, and Cal to all pick up their games significantly on the offensive side of things. We need Teoscar, Ty, Jarred, and J.P. to just be who they’ve been and no worse. We need a little more out of second base, whether that’s Wong getting hot or Caballero being more than just a walk machine. And then we just need a bat to be in that middle range of Teoscar/Ty/Jarred. Like a Mike Ford, or a Tom Murphy, or an A.J. Pollock, or TBD.

But, the majority of this stretch run needs to be dominated by our stars: Julio, Eugenio, and Cal. Those are our monsters, and it’s about time for them to be unleashed.

On the pitching side of things, no notes from our starters, other than: no more injuries. As for the relievers, I want to see some unsustainable hot stretches from our back-end-of-the-bullpen guys. Brash, Munoz, and Sewald. No more blown saves. No more back-breaking homers allowed. Just zeroes, by whatever means necessary.

I believe in Julio. I think he has a helluva second half in store. I’m less bullish on Suarez or Raleigh. And the bullpen kinda scares me a little bit.

That doesn’t mean I’m not going to root like crazy. That doesn’t mean there’s a small, simple part of me – buried deep down, underneath decades of insufferable Mariners play – that believes in a playoff run. If it happens, it’ll be up there with the ’95 comeback. But, I’m bracing myself for disappointment. This is the way.

Is Mike Ford A Thing?

Clearly, the Mariners are in need of a stable bat. Someone in the realm of a Carlos Santana from last year, at a minimum. Ideally, someone better, who’s signed through at least 2024. But, that could take up to a month or more to get done by the trade deadline. What about in the interim?

Well, the M’s need to find an internal option, don’t they? I’m specifically talking about DH here, because for better or for worse, they’re pretty much set everywhere else. No outfield openings, Caballero has sort of taken hold of the second base spot (with Dylan Moore’s return sprinkled in). But, it’s that DH spot that we’ve entirely ignored that needs the most pruning.

A.J. Pollock is a waste of space. Tommy La Stella is gone (good riddance). Cooper Hummel and Sam Haggerty were sent down to Tacoma to make adjustments. Dylan Moore is hitless in three games so far, and I’m not really banking on ANYTHING out of him in what has been a lost injury season so far. Kolten Wong is only here until Moore shows he can hit; after that, as soon as this team needs to make a roster change, Wong should be the first to go. And less really does seem to be more when it comes to DH’ing Tom Murphy.

But, Mike Ford, he’s kind of interesting to me.

Could he be a Carlos Santana type? He’s 30 years old, soon to be 31. He’s had numerous cups of coffee in the Majors since 2019, but no more than 50 games, and he’s never been as good as he was that first year with the Yankees (when he hit 12 bombs while batting .259). This is actually his third stint with the Mariners’ organization and in that time he’s always kinda been this Quad-A hitter. Someone who mashes in AAA, but has yet to figure it out in the bigs.

He started out in Tacoma this year and hit .302/.427/.605, with 13 homers and 11 doubles. Maybe more importantly, he had only 30 strikeouts against 34 walks. Now, either he’s the most Quad-A hitter who’s ever lived (playing in the PCL, that’s entirely possible), or maybe – JUST MAYBE – he’s figured things out. Maybe he’s got his swing right. Maybe he’s figured out his approach at the plate.

When Ford has been at his best professionally, he’s walked more than he’s struck out. He makes good swing decisions and doesn’t chase out of the zone. And, of course, he’s got a free and easy power swing from the left side of the plate, that’s perfect for platooning.

I want to point out that I was mulling this topic of blog-versation over before last night’s 2-homer explosion. Granted, before last night, he had yet to really do much of anything, and indeed he has 6 strikeouts against 1 walk, so if last night didn’t happen, I’d say the tone of this post would be much less optimistic. But, now we know what he’s capable of. He has a multi-homer game in him. Those also weren’t his only two homers; he now has 4 of them in his 8 appearances so far.

This turnaround – if we want to call it that – isn’t totally out of left field. He had it built into his contract that if the Mariners didn’t call him up by June, he could opt out of the deal and become a free agent. Clearly, the Mariners had a need for a hitter, and part of me wants to ask, “What the fuck took so long?!” These things happen all the time. This doesn’t mean that Mike Ford is the next Edgar Martinez or anything. But, sometimes these Quad-A guys pop for a year or two in the Majors. Maybe it’s luck, maybe it’s development, maybe it’s just total randomness. But, it happens, and maybe this is Mike Ford’s year to excel.

This feels like a situation where Ford just takes over the DH role, platooning with Dylan Moore or A.J. Pollock whenever there’s a lefty on the mound. Not that Pollock has done a God damn thing against lefties (supposedly his strength; I fucking told you that shit wasn’t gonna fly in Seattle), but maybe once Pollock settles into that reserve role permanently, he’ll relax and hits will start falling (I get the feeling he’s pressing, still trying to be a starting presence on this team).

The sample is still too small to really believe in Ford; but what else are you gonna do for the next month and change? I don’t think – even if he plays well – that it’ll prevent us from looking for a bat by the trade deadline. But, it sure would be nice to have Ford as an option just in case things don’t work out, or for the inevitable Ty France IL stint because he’s been hit by one too many pitches.

I’m rooting for him. I always root for these Quad-A guys. They’re so close to their ultimate dream – success in the Major Leagues – and so often they fall flat on their faces. Fingers crossed – for all of our sakes – that Mike Ford is the exception.

The Mariners Blew It Against The Cubs

It’s hard for me to tell if this is a Same Old Mariners situation, or if this is the final death rattle of those Same Old Mariners, where natural instincts kick in – and the M’s play like those Same Old Mariners for a very short while – before mercifully passing and morphing into a new and exciting team for a generation to come.

Either way, this all tracks for what we’ve come to expect from this organization. What was the one fear we all had? As soon as the expectations to win became REAL, the clock would strike midnight, the team would turn back into a pumpkin, and we’d be left holding the tattered rags of a once-beautiful dress, sitting in mud next to a dog and a couple of mice.

If you want to put a positive spin on it, then you’re probably expecting this team to perform up to snuff in late-May or early-June. And, if that’s the case, it’s easy to make the argument that this series would’ve been a Mariners sweep if we’d only played it then. But, it was played now, and instead of winning all three, we went 1-2.

To be fair, we probably didn’t have any business winning the first game. Luis Castillo was fine, but had one bad inning and left with the team losing 2-1 after six innings. Then again, we also had no business letting Drew Smyly dominate us through five innings (which easily would’ve been seven or eight, if his arm was stretched out enough).

I’ll tell you this much, the bottom of this lineup is REALLY starting to piss me off. The only reason A.J. Pollock was brought here in the first place is to be a right-handed platoon partner for Jarred Kelenic, who is supposed to mash left-handed pitching! He has exactly one good game under his belt so far, but otherwise Scott Servais can’t wait to get him out of any game he starts. In this one, as soon as Smyly left, all the usual left-handed bats were inserted into the lineup to try to kickstart some offense. Wong in for Haggerty (Wong hasn’t been any great shakes at all, but had a couple of singles in this one), Cal in for Tom Murphy (who has a whopping one hit on the season), and most importantly, Kelenic in for Pollock.

We have all these platoon opportunities, but they’re all shit. We have this deep bench of rotating DH candidates, but it’s almost exclusively WASTED on them, rather than giving other guys rest days from the field. What the hell are we doing here?! Why is Cooper Hummel a DH? What kind of a sick joke is that, perpetuated by the team who employed the greatest designated hitter of all time?!

If this was the only year we were trotting out baseball’s worst DH, I might let it go. But, we’ve been ABYSMAL at filling that spot ever since Edgar retired, and it’s a God damned embarrassment.

What’s decidedly NOT embarrassing is the way Kelenic is playing. He yanked a solo homer in the top of the 9th to tie it at 2-2, leading me to wonder if things were going to turn around here. Instead, Matt Brash came in to pitch the 10th (after we failed to score our own ghost runner), botched a pick-off move, and allowed the game-winning RBI single to blow another one.

Still waiting for that dominating relief pitcher we were all promised.

The game on Tuesday got off to a fabulous start, with the Mariners jumping out to a 7-0 lead and chasing their starter in the second inning. Unfortunately, this was Chris Flexen’s turn in the rotation, and it wasn’t exactly his best performance. He got chased in the bottom of the third (giving up 8 runs in 2.1 innings) and the rout was on from there. How a game that featured the M’s being up by 7 runs at one point, turned into a rout for the OTHER team, is something that only the Mariners could achieve. 14-9 defeat, I shit you not.

Diego Castillo looks officially broken, which is great. Perfect timing with Brash’s struggles and Munoz being on the IL. We got some mop-up relief from Jose Rodriguez (3 innings, 3 runs), who was just called up before this game and promptly sent back down afterward. Tough luck, but at least he gets a mention in my blog.

At least the offense came to play. On a normal day, 9 runs is plenty, so that’s not nothing. France, Suarez, Cal, and J.P. all had good games. But, Kelenic gets a special shout-out for hitting a homer in back-to-back games (more on him in a bit).

We salvaged one in the Wednesday finale, 5-2. Logan Gilbert was dominant (6.2 innings, 1 run, 4 hits, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts, on 94 pitches), the bullpen did its job (Justin Topa looks like he’s maybe a breakout reclamation project we didn’t see coming), and the offense both jumped out to an early lead and played add-on late in the game.

Julio, France, and Suarez all did well, Teoscar hit his third homer of the year, and not to be out-done, Kelenic hit his third homer in three games. This one a whopping 482-foot shot to the upper deck in center field, which is the longest Mariners home run in the Statcast era, and the longest regular season home run at Wrigley Field in the Statcast era. Just a fucking BLAST!

That leaves Kelenic hitting .351/.415/.703. This is everything we ever imagined he’d be and then some! Of course, it’s a 2-week sample. But, I would argue he’s never had a 2-week sample at the Major League level like this. Hell, he might not have had a 2-week sample like this EVER. Also, this is at the beginning of the season, not at the very end when nothing matters. Up to this point, it’s been about his minor league success and his hot stretches in September (hoping they’d carry over into the next season). But, now he looks confident, his swing is on point, the power is shining through, and he looks like the best player on this team.

On a team that, mind you, has Julio Rodriguez.

Whether that holds for the rest of the season is anybody’s guess. But, this adjustment he’s made (or series of adjustments) looks legit. This looks like it’s set to stick. And if that’s the case, the rest of the league better watch out!

There’s a lot of talk on Twitter among fans saying they’ll take this Kelenic hot start over the Mariners having a hot start; I think that’s a pointless conversation.

What I’m more interested in is how long the Mariners stick to their plan to both platoon Kelenic, while keeping him in the bottom third of the lineup.

I don’t have a major issue keeping him where he is in the lineup; there’s still obvious run-producing opportunities down at the bottom, and his hotness will help turn the lineup over to Julio at the top again. But, my patience with Pollock and La Stella and Hummel and all these other scrubs is wearing thin. I’m about two weeks away from abandoning the platoon, and taking my chances with Kelenic against left-handed pitchers. Maybe he gets a day off every two weeks or something, if there’s a particularly nasty southpaw. But, otherwise, I’d rather have the young stud over the fucking washout nobodies.

Who knew we’d miss Carlos Santana so much?

Can The Mariners Overtake The Astros In 2023?

As we get closer to the start of Spring Training – which commences in a couple weeks – it’s looking less and less likely that the Mariners will make a big, impactful move to improve this year’s team. Although, to be fair, the Winker/Suarez deal came down in mid-March last year, so it’s not impossible for something huge to come down the pike. Nevertheless, we can only render judgments on things as we know them today.

And today, we have a team that added Teoscar Hernandez, Kolten Wong, Trevor Gott, and A.J. Pollock; they lost Mitch Haniger (Giants), Kyle Lewis (Diamondbacks), Jesse Winker (Brewers), Abraham Toro (Brewers), Adam Frazier (Orioles), Carlos Santana (Pirates), and Erik Swanson (Blue Jays), among others. Feels like a wash to me. We’re REALLY banking a lot of our hopes and dreams on Hernandez and Wong coming to Seattle and continuing their relatively high-quality play. I get why we made these moves – Haniger is an injury waiting to happen, Winker and Toro were busts here, Frazier and Santana might be over the hill – but I can see a world where Winker bounces back when fully healthy, and where Haniger manages to keep his body right and not succumb to some more atrocious injury luck.

The justification for not spending a lot in free agency, or taking a lot of money on in trades, is due to our extending Julio Rodriguez and Luis Castillo in the middle of last year. Somehow, those two get lumped into our Hot Stove tally sheet by the Mariners, mostly to play down the complaints that the M’s are fucking tightwads, but that’s neither here nor there. They are who they are.

I’m not as up in arms as a lot of fans are. For the most part, I think the Mariners are building the right way. I’m already on record as saying I hate these big-money deals for outside free agents (the Robinson Cano conundrum). And I understand the farm system took a hit in the rankings – thanks to guys graduating to the Majors, and other guys getting traded away in the Castillo deal – so there’s not a ton of value left to jettison. It’s smart to not completely gut our minors just to bring in one more guy, especially if we’re not necessarily One More Guy away from winning a World Series. What I take issue with is the fact that there were mid-tier free agents out there who we could’ve signed to mid-level free agent deals – knowing we needed at least one more outfielder, as well as someone to rotate at DH – and we opted for A.J. Pollock. I think that’s going to burn us; I hope I’m wrong.

At some point, we have to move forward with the team we’ve been given. Which brings us to the question at hand: can the Mariners overtake the Astros in 2023?

This question assumes, of course, that the Mariners and Astros are the two best teams in the A.L. West, and by “overtaking the Astros”, it means the Mariners will win the division. For the sake of argument, then, let’s just further assume there’s no huge surprise team among the Angels, Rangers, or Athletics (who I would expect to finish in that order at the bottom of the division, though there’s always the chance the Rangers make a leap).

I’ll start with this: I haven’t kept great tabs on the Astros’ wheelings and dealings this offseason. I’m just taking it for granted they’re going to be at least as good as they were in 2022. Meaning: they’re probably good enough to win over 100 games. Last year, the Astros won 106 games, and were 16 games better than the Mariners. So, that’s the gap I’m talking about. Can we make up 16 games on them?

Well, for one thing, since we only play them 13 times – down from the usual 19 – there are fewer opportunities to gain ground in head-to-head play. But, as we’ve seen pretty much since the Astros joined the American League, that actually means there are fewer opportunities for them to beat our brains in. In my mind, that can only be a good thing for the M’s.

There are two, MAYBE three major things that I’m pointing to as reasons for optimism. The big two being: Luis Castillo and Julio Rodriguez. As much as I loathe including them as part of our overall spending this offseason, I do think there’s a legitimate argument to be made in favor of the Mariners picking up some wins in 2023.

Recall we traded for Castillo on July 30th last year; this year, we get him for the full season! (I should point out that this post also has to assume that everyone I write about stays healthy all year, or at least the vast majority of the games, for all teams involved; of course, the M’s could overtake the Astros if their top five guys all go down with ACL tears). Castillo was a 1 WAR player for the Mariners over the final two months; he counted 3.1 WAR for the Reds. What difference will he make at the top of our rotation every 5-6 days (depending how deep of a rotation we opt to go with to start out) for a full six months? I think that’s pretty significant.

Also recall that Julio Rodriguez was effectively worthless in the month of April last year, as he was getting his footing at the Major League level. Now he’s an All Star who should play at a very high level from Day 1. Having that experience last year can only boost him that much more in year two (let’s hope there’s no Sophomore Slump!). You can also say something similar about Cal Raleigh; he was officially demoted to Tacoma for a short spell before injury thrust him back to Seattle, where he FINALLY turned it around. I’m a little more concerned about his effectiveness this year; he’s still pretty boom or bust at the plate. But, let’s just say he SHOULD be as good as he was in the second half last year, and if we get that for a full season, it’ll be a nice lift for this offense in the months of April and May.

Finally, as a little bonus, I’ll just quickly add that the training wheels are officially off of Logan Gilbert, and the experience he’s had through two seasons will hopefully propel him towards one of those upper rotation slots. If he’s not a second ace on this team, I would expect him to be at least an effective #2. His career trajectory to date has been remarkable, and there’s still room for him to get better. We’re just getting into George Kirby’s second season, where it’s expected the training wheels are very much still on (considering he pitched a lot more as a rookie than the team expected going into last year). But, his ceiling looks to be even higher than Gilbert’s, so as long as these guys don’t have any major setbacks, you’re talking about one of the best rotations in all of baseball, starting on Day 1.

Is that enough? The bullpen will have to continue being lights out. The offense will have to continue being timely with their hitting and cluster luck. If everything goes according to plan, and we don’t run into a bunch of guys having career-worst seasons, I think there’s an okay chance. Maybe a 66.67% chance the Astros win the division, with a 33.33% chance the Mariners prevail. That’s not amazing, but considering it’s usually a 99.99% chance the Astros dominate, I’ll take it.

What I’d Like To See The Mariners Do This Offseason

It’s impossible to predict the fluctuation of outcomes from individual players year over year. A guy might’ve had a great 2022, then all of a sudden goes in the tank due to injuries, private personal matters, or just total randomness. Baseball can be INFURIATING in that respect.

That being said, there doesn’t appear to be quite as many holes to fill this offseason as usual. Coming off of back-to-back 90-win seasons – the latest being a playoff run into the ALDS – that’s a good problem to have. It’s also one we’re not used to experiencing, as Mariners fans. I almost don’t know what to do with myself!

The starting rotation, for instance, looks to be set, barring trades. My hunch on the order goes like this:

  • Luis Castillo (R)
  • Logan Gilbert (R)
  • Robbie Ray (L)
  • George Kirby (R)
  • Marco Gonzales (L)

Is it perfect? No. But, I think the top end is good-to-elite, and I think the two lefties are solid innings eaters. The depth beyond those five guys is a little suspect, as I don’t know if any of our upcoming minor league starters are ready to ascend (or will even be with the club, since they present as our biggest trade chips), but we at least should have Chris Flexen around as a long relief arm/injury replacement starter.

I would say the bullpen is largely set too, though of course there’s room to tinker. We’ve got the following arms under contract (among a host of others):

  • Andres Munoz
  • Paul Sewald
  • Erik Swanson
  • Matt Brash
  • Diego Castillo
  • Penn Murfee
  • Matt Festa

We probably need another left-handed reliever or two, but that’s what Spring Training is there for. We go out and find underappreciated rejects and turn them into monster relievers. I’m sure there are guys out on the scrap heap looking to turn their careers around in Seattle.

The major holes are where you’d expect: the everyday lineup.

Right off the bat, Mitch Haniger, Carlos Santana, and Adam Frazier are all free agents. That’s your starting right fielder, DH, and second baseman. Then, there’s the whole Jesse Winker fiasco, so you’re probably looking at a need to replace your left fielder.

Coming at it from the other direction, we look solid-to-great at center field (Julio), third base (Suarez), first base (France), catcher (Raleigh), and short stop or second base (Crawford).

Internal depth pieces include Kelenic, Toro, Lewis, Haggerty, Moore, Trammell, and Torrens. I don’t think we should be confident in any of those guys. I like Haggerty a lot, but I wonder if he’ll get exposed the more he plays. I like Kyle Lewis a lot, but he can’t stay healthy with his chronic knee issues that probably prevent him from playing everyday outside of DH (and, considering how bad he was at the plate this year, you have to wonder if he even has value with his bat anymore). Trammell, Toro, and Torrens all look to be Quad-A players not to be trusted with starting jobs. And Kelenic is the real wild card in all of this. Highly touted, highly regarded throughout his minor league career, but definitely stalled out at the Major League level. Is it possible for him to figure it out? Of course. But, will he do so in a Mariners uniform? That’s a huge question.

It’s frustrating to see so much of the outfield in flux, because that looked like our area of greatest strength. It was supposed to be Julio, Lewis, and Kelenic for the next 5-10 years. Now, it looks like we’ve hit on 1 out of 3.

I’d love for Mitch Haniger to stick around, but clearly he too can’t stay healthy. The smarter play feels like we should let him move on to another team. Which is a tough pill to swallow, because he’s exactly the kind of guy you want. Works hard, plays quality outfield defense, hits for good average and power when he’s healthy, great teammate. But, if he’s spending more time in the training room than out on the field, that’s not a guy you can count on.

I’m already at the point where I think Winker needs to go, but his value has taken such a sharp hit this year, I don’t know what you’d get in return. The smart play might be to get rid of him anyway, because his attitude and alleged lack of work ethic might be a bigger detriment than whatever good we might squeeze out of positive regression, but I can see why the organization might want to avoid having to replace BOTH corner outfield spots. There’s also the chance that, you know, his severe surgical injuries might have hampered him just a bit. So, maybe he’s on the short list for a bit of positive regression.

Even though the Mariners are in the best spot they’ve been in since 2001, it’s not like this is an EASY fix. Two outfielders, one middle-infielder, and one big bat to DH and maybe help out in the field on occasion.

I think the middle infielder is the key. I think we have to sign one of the big bats that hit the market in free agency to either play short stop (and move Crawford over to second) or second base. From there, I think you take a shot in free agency at a quality outfielder, but more likely will have to make a trade for that guy. Then, as for the other outfielder, I think you maybe find someone to platoon, with the other platoon partner being an internal candidate (either Kelenic, Haggerty, or Moore, whoever produces best in Spring Training). As for the DH, find some vet akin to Carlos Santana (only maybe slightly younger and more spry) who can fill in at first base in a pinch, to give France regular days off to DH in his place.

The Mariners should have a decent amount of money to play around with, so I’m hoping there’s at least one big splash. The trade candidates can be guys with 1-2 years left. Maybe we can flip Winker for someone else’s problem, in a greener pastures sort of situation.

The big story this offseason is where will Aaron Judge go. He’s going to get half a billion dollars, easy. Is that someone I’d want in a Mariners uniform? I dunno, how well did it go the last time we signed away a former Yankees superstar?

Here’s the deal: I would be thrilled if the Mariners signed Judge to play right field. As we all would. In the short term, pairing him with Julio and the other guys on our roster is only going to make them the most formidable pairing in baseball. But, there’s a reason why his numbers have been so insane with the Yankees, and that’s because he plays half his game in Yankee Stadium. Hitting homers there is as easy as breathing. If he moves to Seattle, expect a DRAMATIC downturn in his number of homers. He hit 60+ this year? You might bank on him hitting 40+ with the Mariners. I’d say the 30-40 range is more likely. And that’s assuming he stays healthy.

Of course, long term, I think that contract will be a disaster. What worries me is if it’s a disaster from the start. Think Albert Pujols when he joined the Angels. He went downhill almost immediately, and they had to endure a decade of his creaky knees.

I’d rather put that money into a short stop who’s a better long-term fit, and then trade for a value bat in the outfield. That’s easier said than done, obviously. But, I will say that now that we’ve had this success, and we’ve got a lot of our core locked up, Seattle is a more attractive place to come and play. Obviously, it’s not perfect. There’s a lot of travel involved. The home park isn’t easy, especially in the colder months. But, locating the right guys who fit our dynamic and what we’re trying to do offensively will be critical to getting over the hump.

As Napster guy said to Facebook guy in The Social Network, “The wild card isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? Winning the division and getting a top two seed.”

2022 Seattle Mariners: In Memoriam

It’s fun to look back at my prediction post to see what I thought about the Mariners heading into the season. Long story short: I was right about some guys, VERY wrong about some guys, and I had this team pegged as an 84-win squad who would go on to miss the playoffs once again.

It’s funny how this season ebbed and flowed. We started out 11-6, which kind of gets lost in the shuffle in the narrative to this season, because the next stretch was so terrible. As late as June 19th, we were infamously 10 games under .500 at 29-39 (meaning in that span of almost two months, we went 18-33). Then, amazingly, we finished the year 61-33 (winning at a .649 clip), including a 14-game winning streak to close out the first half. This was a year removed from another 90-win Mariners team who had a pretty shabby record in May/June before turning it on the rest of the way. The main difference is that we had three wild card teams to go along with three divisional winners making the playoffs in each league. So, this time around, 90 wins was just enough.

There are so many fun storylines that came along this year, with the top being Julio Rodriguez. He’s a superstar! He’s the superstar we’ve been waiting for since Ken Griffey Jr. left. He hits for average (.284), he hits for power (28 homers, 25 doubles, 3 triples), he steals bases (25 against 7 caught stealing), he plays tremendous defense in center field, and he’s by all accounts a fantastic leader and teammate. He’s everything you could want in a 6-WAR player, and oh by the way, he also had an absolutely atrocious month of April before figuring out how to play at this level. Meaning he did all he did in 5 months, which is absolutely incredible. He’s your American League Rookie of the Year, and unlike the last Mariners ROY (Kyle Lewis), he figures to play at a high level for many years to come (hence the humongous mega-deal he signed during the season).

You know who else was a really cool story? Cal Raleigh! He struggled in 2021, and was off to another rough start in 2022, to the point where he was briefly sent back down to Tacoma to work on some things. He ultimately was forced to return due to catcher injuries, but this time he made the most of it. He doesn’t hit for much average, but he was among the best catchers in the game with his power (27 homers, 20 doubles, and one improbable triple) and he obviously has a great defensive game (both in handling pitchers as well as throwing runners out and pitch-framing). As far as Pleasant Surprises go, he’s way up there for me and a lot of Mariners fans.

Another guy I wasn’t expecting a ton from was Eugenio Suarez. I wondered – as did many people – if his best days weren’t behind him. Instead, he was probably the best version of what he can be: a 4-WAR player who hit 31 homers, 24 doubles, and 2 triples. He also played very good defense at third base, and is amazingly an upgrade over what we had with Kyle Seager over the last few years. His batting average isn’t stupendous, but his on-base percentage is very good.

One more pleasant surprise before we get to the guys we expected to be good, and that’s Sam Haggerty. It’s a rough go that he wasn’t able to make it to the playoffs – suffering a major injury in the final week of the regular season – but as a bench guy, he finished with 2.2 WAR. It got to the point that he forced his way into an almost-everyday role on this team (bouncing around from various outfield AND infield spots) through sheer grit and talent. I don’t know what his role is long-term, but he’s one of those guys every playoff team needs: someone who hits for average, plays amazing defense, and will steal you a money bag in a pinch.

We got Ty France and J.P. Crawford through almost a full season intact, and they produced about as well as you’d expect, with 3.0 and 2.8 WAR respectively. I think you’d still look to improve at one of the middle infield spots this offseason (potentially moving J.P. over to second), but you have to like what both of these guys give you, as far as leadership and production go. Ultimately, you wonder how both of them will handle the rigors of a full season (as nagging injuries seem to creep in and sap their effectiveness as the season wears on), but for now I have no complaints.

Finally, pour one out for Mitch Haniger and Carlos Santana. Both were on the final years of their respective deals (Santana was a trade acquisition who didn’t hit a lot, but when he did, they seemed to be in the biggest of moments). Santana is probably washed as an everyday bat, while Haniger proved once again that he can’t stay healthy for a full (or multiple) season(s). I would say Haniger was great while he was in there, but even with his 1.4 WAR across 57 games, he still went in the tank for long stretches (and didn’t really give us much in the playoffs).

As far as pitching goes, there are plenty of kudos to go around. Logan Gilbert led the squad in WAR with 3.2. He built on his impressive rookie season with an even better one, throwing 185.2 innings in 32 starts. It looks like Gilbert is going to be a workhorse for many years to come.

On Gilbert’s heels came George Kirby, who had a similar rookie year this year to Gilbert’s last year: very restricted innings, yet still impressive output. What Kirby had this year – which Gilbert never got a chance to show last year – was a phenomenal playoff run. You would expect Kirby to have a similar increase in his innings next year, followed by the training wheels coming all the way off in 2024.

Luis Castillo was our big deadline acquisition, and he showed why the cost was worth it. To the point that he earned himself a long-term extension to stick around and be this team’s ace for the foreseeable future. He’s like a harder-throwing Felix with a similarly-impressive change up.

Robbie Ray was the leader of the pitchers throughout the year, but he had a number of rough patches to endure. His start was rocky as hell, until he started incorporating his 2-seam fastball. That led to improved results, but ultimately it seemed like he struggled against better teams. I don’t know what tweaks are in his future, but he’s going to need to rein in his command if he’s going to be worth the huge wad of money the Mariners are giving him over the next few years.

The rotation was wildly healthy this year, which is pretty insane. Marco Gonzales did Marco Gonzales things, finishing pretty well in line with his career norms, throwing 183 innings across 32 starts, and being about league average as you can get. Chris Flexen also did Chris Flexen things, and earned himself a nice little bump in pay in 2023 (to be this team’s long reliever, I guess, if he’s not traded at some point).

The bullpen – for the second year in a row – was this team’s heart and soul, and they needed every bit of the talent on offer. What’s interesting is that – aside from Sewald – we got it from a gaggle of new guys. Andres Munoz was the obvious breakout star, throwing 100+, with a 90+ slider. But, Erik Swanson dramatically improved his game, Penn Murfee was a nice surprise, Matt Festa was a competent arm, Diego Castillo got better once he was dropped from the highest-leverage spots, and Matt Brash was a revelation once the team demoted him from starter to reliever. If Brash sticks with relief, I think the sky is the limit with this kid, which is great news when you figure he’ll slot alongside Munoz and Sewald for the next few years at least.

It wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops for the 2022 Mariners, though.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that Jesse Winker was this team’s biggest disappointment. He came over in that first big trade with the Reds (alongside Suarez), and everyone pegged Winker as the cornerstone of that deal. For good reason, because all Winker has done is produce at the plate in his Major League career. Especially in 2021, when he played at an All Star level.

Winker’s production fell dramatically this year. He suffered the Seattle curse. At home, his slash line was .203/.331/.294; on the road, it was dramatically higher: .232/.354/.382. 10 of his 14 homers came on the road. Ironically, the book on him was that he struggled against lefties but crushed righties; however that flipped for some bizarre reason in 2022. Across the board he was better against lefties, which is crazy to me!

The final nail in the coffin appears to be his work ethic, and his chemistry in the clubhouse as a result of that (lack of) work ethic. I’ll say this: I agree with Divish, I don’t think he looks very strong or athletic whatsoever. His defense isn’t just mediocre, it’s an outright liability. Sure, his eye at the plate is pretty strong, but you can’t build a career on crap defense and walks. That’s not going to work on a team that has a razor-thin margin for error when it comes to our offensive struggles at times. This is a team with a whole lotta alpha dogs who are in it to win it. I don’t know what Winker’s vibe is exactly – he struck me as an easygoing, comedy relief type of presence, but I don’t know if that’s totally accurate given the RBF we’ve come to witness so often – but clearly it doesn’t mesh with this team. Either he gets traded, or they try to make it work with an offseason meeting of the minds. My hunch is we cut and run, though I hope there’s at least a little value, since I think his bat would play in a friendlier offensive environment.

Adam Frazier was also a pretty significant offseason acquisition that was also a major disappointment. You bring in a guy like Frazier for his high batting average and on-base percentage. Competent defense at second and in the corner outfield is a bonus, but he’s supposed to be a regular baserunner for other guys to hit in. That’s what makes his 2022 season so befuddling, because his bat SHOULD play anywhere he goes. We’re not relying on him to be a dynamic power source like Winker, we just want him standing on first base for other guys to knock him around. He only turned 30 this year, so he should still be close enough to his prime to be effective. But, regardless, he started in a pretty deep hole and could never fully get out of it, in spite of occasional hot stretches. As I mentioned, there’s room for improvement up the middle, but that was always going to be the case. Frazier was on a 1-year deal, so we were going to have to look to fill this spot either way. Between left field and second base, we need to find at least ONE bigtime bat to help prop up this offense to get closer to league-average in scoring.

I’ll just rattle off really quickly: the other major disappointments were Luis Torrens, Abraham Toro, and Jarred Kelenic.

Kelenic had a fantastic finish to his 2021 season, which gave us all hope that he’d be here to stay in 2022. Instead, he sucked hard in the early going, spent MOST of the year down in Tacoma, had a nice little blip in the last couple weeks of the regular season, but ultimately wasn’t able to continue that through the playoffs. There’s still a lot he needs to do to be a more consistent Major League presence, and I just don’t know if he’s ever going to stick in Seattle.

Toro was a deadline acquisition in 2021 who has had a number of big hits in clutch moments, but by and large he’s been atrocious. He had to play for the Mariners quite a bit this year due to injuries and ineffectiveness around the roster, but he’s a huge wad of nothing. Time to move on.

Torrens, we thought, figured out his bat in 2021, and was supposed to be a steady middle-of-the-order type of guy, either as a backup catcher, or as this team’s DH. But, once again, he fell off the map and found himself DFA’d. He passed through without anyone claiming him, so we were able to get him to Tacoma until late in the regular season, when he returned to Seattle (with Raleigh’s injury issues) and saw an uptick in his offensive production again. I couldn’t tell you what his future holds, but I’ll go out on a limb and say the Mariners need improvement at backup catcher.

I don’t have a ton of complaints about the pitching. Again, it would be nice if Robbie Ray was better against good teams, since we clearly need him if we’re going to make it back to the playoffs. It was also disconcerting to see Sewald get beaten around so much late in the year. But, other than some minor quibbles, most of the guys who sucked (Steckenrider sure didn’t last long, did he?) were jettisoned in a timely fashion.

The overarching analysis for the 2022 Mariners is a rousing success. We made the playoffs for the first time since 2001! Even if it was last year’s playoff format, we would have made it to the Wild Card play-in game, and we would have prevailed to advance to the ALDS. So, I’m not taking anything away from the Mariners. Quite frankly, it’s insane there haven’t been more playoff teams for a while now. After a 162-game season, there needs to be proper representation! There are so many good teams in baseball who deserve a shot every year, why deprive markets of fun opportunities?

This is a team that outperformed expectations. It’s also a team that can easily keep things going, barring injuries. A couple of key additions should leave us contending for the A.L. West next year. And, as long as we don’t totally strip the farm system, there should be enough studs coming up through the pipeline – especially on the pitching side – to keep us playing at a high level for years to come.

The last time the Mariners were good, we had a nice 9-year run of success. Unfortunately, in that span, we only made it to the postseason 4 times, and never advanced beyond the ALCS. That needs to change here. Hopefully, we have the talent and the scouting to make the leap. It’s time for the Mariners – the only team to never play for a world championship – to make the World Series. Will that happen in 2023? A lot would have to go right, but I wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand. Of course, the odds are super long. But, it’s just nice to have a fun baseball team to root for again. It’s been FAR too long!

The Mariners Are Finished

There’s no coming back from that. The numbers bear it out: over 70% of teams who lose game 1 of a 5-game playoff series go on to lose that series. But, psychologically? There’s no coming back from that! The Mariners gave the Astros their absolute best. We knocked out their ace starter after four innings, we piled up 7 runs in their own ballpark, we got the game to our bullpen (our number one strength as a team by a million miles), and we STILL couldn’t finish the job. We’re done. It’s only a matter of time. I would wager, that time will come on Saturday, in the form of a 3-game sweep.

It was all right there, that’s what’s devastating about it. Had we held on, game 1 was an absolute gift. Then, we’d have the luxury of Luis Castillo going in game 2; if he could do to the Astros what he just did to the Blue Jays, then we’d be firmly in the driver’s seat of this series, needing to win in just one of the last three games. But, conversely, we could have endured the rare bad game from Castillo and still headed back to Seattle knowing there’d be two home games to look forward to.

Now, if we get that rare bad game from Castillo, you can put the final nail in our coffin.

I’m eternally grateful I didn’t see the end of the game. I watched through Logan Gilbert getting pulled with one out in the sixth, then I had to drive to Port Orchard to poke around during our home inspection. With the spottiest of phone Internet, the best I could do was follow along on Twitter at a snail’s pace. But, if I was watching live? I might’ve had a rage aneurysm.

I have a lot of shit I want to say. I have a lot of pointed and angry words for this organization and certain players on it. Part of me is so sad and disappointed though, because I know that was it. It’s over. We’re witnessing a slow motion car crash in real time. The Astros are just too fucking good. The one advantage that we had was the fact that we were fresh and they were rusty. Then, they woke up from their slumber over the last two innings of that game, and now they’re going to stomp all over us like the Godzillas that they are. We can’t beat that team! We’ve never been able to beat that team. And losing to them in the playoffs is just something I don’t think I can endure.

So, I’m emotionally tapped out. The Mariners are that close family member with a terminal illness, and I’m the fan that grieves their loss while they’re still alive. We deserve better. The Astros and their shitty fans deserve MUCH worse.

What the fuck happened to Paul Sewald? He was our rock! Are we going to find out he’s been secretly hurt since late in the regular season? Because he has NOT been the same guy, getting rocked for major hits in big spots. Did the magic spell that some witch put on his pitches finally wear off? It’s just the worst possible time for our best reliever (over the last two years) to shit the bed like this.

I blame Scott Servais 100% for this loss. You’ve watched him murder our team for years now, YOU FUCKING WALK YORDAN ALVAREZ!!! Is there a base open? WALK HIM! Are the bases loaded? FUCK IT, WALK HIM ANYWAY! This is not a discussion, this is not a debate. You walk the guy who fucking murders you in every fucking big moment, and you take your chances with whoever the fuck. The reincarnation of Babe Ruth in his prime could be standing there on deck, I don’t care! You walk Alvarez!

I also blame him for thinking Robbie Ray deserves to be on the mound in this series at all. Are you ready for four more years of Robbie Ray’s junkballs getting blasted far and wide? There’s a player opt-out after two more years, but what are the odds he’s in any position to earn more money on the open market? I’ve never been more depressed in my life.

I know there’s a lot of blame to go around, but I just can’t get over the whole pitching to Alvarez thing. I refuse to hear any argument to the contrary, that’s the guy you don’t let beat you.

There’s two games to go. Do I really have to do this? Do I really have to keep watching this series? So often, during the regular season, I take the Astros series off. As a fan, I’ll watch anything else. I’ll go to the gym. I’ll turn on a movie. I’ll go to sleep early.

But, these are the playoffs. I have to watch. I don’t want to, but I know I have to.

This is fucking miserable.

I will give props to the offense, who never stopped fighting in this one. Homers by J.P. and Suarez in the middle innings were nice cushions for the inevitable destruction. Julio had a double and a triple. France had three hits. Everyone but Santana contributed, but his time is coming again.

It’s just too bad that this game had to end with a complete and total bullpen meltdown. If you can’t rely on your bullpen, then all hope is lost.

The Miracle Mariners Made It To The ALDS

I gotta tell ya, this weekend felt like a surreal dream! The Mariners shut out the Blue Jays on Friday afternoon, then my girlfriend and I found the perfect house that had been saving itself especially for us. On Saturday, the Mariners blew it early – giving up an 8-1 deficit to the Blue Jays – and as we discussed submitting an offer on the house with our Realtor, that’s when the comeback commenced. We pulled off the comeback as I was on the road listening on the radio, and later that night we got word that our offer was accepted. In one fell swoop, the Mariners swept the Blue Jays to make it to the American League Divisional Series, AND we got a house! What am I more happy about? I’m pleading the Fifth, but let’s say both events are life-changing and make me happier than I’ve ever been.

There is, of course, more to do. The Mariners have a supremely difficult 5-game series with the Astros to look forward to. And we have our home inspection tomorrow afternoon (ensuring I’m likely to miss the end of this M’s game as well). The rest of this month is sure to be a rollercoaster!

Friday was the game we HAD to have. We all knew it. We all knew it because we saw the writing on the wall with Robbie Ray. Spoiler alert: that writing would prove to be correct. Bottom line is: no one wanted to go into Game 2 needing a quality start from one of our most inconsistent starters over the bulk of this season. Note I didn’t say “one of our worst”. That might be Marco, but at least Marco is pretty consistent. You know what you’re going to get – more often than not – from Marco. With Ray, it could be 7 shutout innings, or he could fail to get out of the second; it’s a total crapshoot.

With that in mind, it was beyond a relief to see Luis Castillo come in and dominate from the jump. What’s interesting is that he didn’t necessarily kill them with unhittable stuff. He just killed them with stuff that led to relatively weak contact. He only finished with 5 strikeouts, but three of them came in the 7th inning (when it looked like he was emptying the tank). He finished the game having gone 7.1 innings, 6 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, 5 K’s. It was a masterful performance!

But, he left with a runner on first (hitting George Springer on the wrist in his final AB). That brought Andres Munoz into the game to mop up; he got a fly-out and a ground-out against two of the best Blue Jays hitters (Bo Bichette and Vlad Guerrero Jr.) to keep them scoreless. Then, Munoz returned in the bottom of the 9th to make quick work of things, giving up a harmless double in the process.

The offense got things going early against one of the better starters in the league in Alek Manoah. He hit Julio to lead off the game, a France groundout moved Julio over to second, Suarez doubled to right to score our first run, and then Cal Raleigh immediately followed with a 2-run homer to make it 3-0 before the Blue Jays even got up to bat. That was it until the fifth inning, when Julio was hit a second time, advanced on a France single the other way, and scored on a Suarez fielder’s choice. 4-0, final score.

That was a relief! It was nice knowing that no matter what happened on Saturday, there’d still be a game on Sunday, where Logan Gilbert would square off against whoever the third-best starter is on the Jays. But, no need! This actually sets things up really well for the Astros series (we need all the help we can get), allowing us to potentially throw Gilbert twice if need be.

The offense REALLY struggled to get going on Saturday. We had a decent opportunity in the first again, but couldn’t push anyone home. France reached on an error and Cal walked, but Haniger struck out to end the threat.

Ironically enough – when it came to Robbie Ray – he looked kind of dialed in through the first three at-bats of the game. Two strikeouts and a weak grounder by Vlad gave us all a false sense of security that things would be fine. That proved not to be in the second inning, when he gave up a meatball 2-run home run to Teoscar Hernandez. He gave up an RBI single in the third, and by that point it looked like he was done. Scott Servais, nevertheless, trotted him back out for the fourth inning, and he gave up a leadoff home run to Hernandez (his second of the day) before getting pulled.

I was convinced that extra run might mean something, but after Brash got an inning of work under his belt, he gave way to Sewald in the fifth, who gave up 4 earned runs in 0.2 innings of work. Just a nightmare scenario. We managed to finally get a hit and break through with a run in the top of the fifth (thanks to a Kelenic sac fly RBI), but it was 8-1 by the time the bottom half concluded.

We finally chased Kevin Gausman in the sixth (I missed all of this). He gave up back-to-back-to-back singles to load the bases, before striking out Haniger and getting a weak pop-out from Adam Frazier (who, in his career, has notoriously beaten Gausman like a red-headed stepchild). Hindsight being what it is, you wonder why they didn’t leave Gausman in there to face Santana (he was only at 95 pitches). To be fair, Santana hit a rocket of a double in the fifth that missed being a 2-run home run by inches, so maybe that was fresh in the manager’s mind.

Anyway, a wild pitch by the reliever is the only reason why Santana didn’t go on to hit a grand slam. Regardless, it was a 3-run home run (4 runs scored total that inning) to bring the game to an 8-5 score in this now battle of the bullpens. Matt Festa went 1.1 innings of relief, with Penn Murfee relieving him in the bottom of the seventh, giving up an inherited runner in the process. So, it was 9-5 when all hell broke loose.

Top of the eighth: Suarez led off with a double, Raleigh singled to center to make it 9-6. Haniger and Frazier both singled to load the bases, where Santana and Dylan Moore (who had relieved Kelenic) both struck out. With two outs, J.P. Crawford swung at a first-pitch slider that flared into center. Both Bichette and Springer sprinted for the ball, but neither really had a chance for it (maybe if Bichette gave way, Springer could’ve dove for it, but the replay I saw made that appear to be an impossibility). Since there were two outs, everyone was running on the ball, and all three ended up scoring, as Crawford landed on second base. Springer had to exit the game after that, almost certainly with some sort of head injury upon running into his teammate. But, we had a brand new ballgame. 9-9.

Munoz took over in the eighth, struggling a bit, but ultimately kept it scoreless in a heroic effort. That’s two insanely important games in a row – against the teeth of the Blue Jays’ lineup – and he got zeroes on the board.

Raleigh doubled in the top of the ninth, sandwiched around a couple of outs. All hope was not lost, though, as Frazier doubled him home for the 10-9 lead. All that was left was the save.

To this point, we had used Ray (3 innings), Brash, Sewald (2 outs), Castillo (1 out), Festa (4 outs), Murfee (2 outs), and Munoz. There were only three other pitchers on the roster, and one of them was George Kirby. While I know he’s been relegated to a bullpen role – at least for this series, if not for the entire playoffs – I don’t think this is the spot we necessarily envisioned for his first-ever playoff appearance.

Yet, he got three outs, only giving up a harmless walk, and the celebration was on. Blue Jays fans were justifiably stunned, as were Mariners fans, if I’m being honest. The Rally Shoe is apparently a thing now (because some fan – or possible mental patient – put a shoe on his head that was caught by a TV camera during the viewing party at T-Mobile Park); I will not be participating in the Rally Shoe phenomenon, because I don’t want to put a dirty-ass shoe on my head.

Anyway, what a wonderful dream of a weekend! The ALDS starts for us tomorrow at just after 12:30pm. Game 1 Tuesday, Game 2 Thursday (both in Houston), then Game 3 and Game 4 are in Seattle Saturday and Sunday (with a potential Game 5 on Monday, with no off-day for travel).

As fun as this is, this is probably the end of the road for the Mariners. We might steal a game or two, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the Astros sweep us. The talent disparity is pretty severe. Plus, they’ve had all this time off and can slot their starters accordingly. We’ll get one game out of Luis Castillo, but probably not two. Not with Game 2 being on Thursday (better chance if it landed on Wednesday); that would put him on 3-days rest for a potential Game 5, if we make it that far.

I expect us to go Gilbert, Castillo, Ray in the first three games. That would put Ray in T-Mobile Park, which is far more ideal than him pitching in Houston. That slots Gilbert to start on Sunday on 4 days’ rest. Or, we could save him for Monday on normal rest and throw Gonzales either Saturday or Sunday. As always, I think it’ll depend on how the first couple of games go. We might have to reshuffle everything depending on how big a hole we dig ourselves.

While I’ll say that I’m officially betting the Taylor Family Farm on the Astros winning this series, it wouldn’t be totally unthinkable for the Mariners to shock the world. It’s only a 5-game series. If our pitching is on point – and I mean REALLY on point – we could steal enough games to move on. I don’t think we’ll be winning any 10-9 type shootouts, though!

We’ll see! I never like playing the Just Happy To Be There card, because I don’t believe this team is just happy to be there. But, as a fan, making the playoffs was the goal. Reaching the ALDS feels like gravy. We’re playing with house money. We got beyond the meaningless drivel that is the Wild Card series, and now we’re into the traditional (quote/unquote) baseball playoffs. The one I grew up with, not necessarily the one my father or grandfather grew up with.

It’s nice to be there. It’s nice to be in the mix with the other divisional winners (the Astros, Yankees, and Guardians – who swept the Rays in part by winning a game in 15 innings 1-0). We have just as much pitching as anyone, therefore we have just as much of a chance to prevail as anyone.

Now that the pressure is off. Now that everyone believes the Astros will prevail (and probably win it all), let’s go out there and have fun and maybe spoil everyone’s bets!